Are you in love with America or is it just a summer fling? This weekend, The Lady Logician takes a long, hard look at this question as she examines a recent column by Joel Stein. The L.A. Times piece seeks to continue the culture wars in America by addressing the question of whether or not conservatives love our country more than liberals do. I don’t much care for blatant generalizations about “The Left” or “The Right” and what they do or don’t do, as if they were each some sort of monolithic, homogeneous block of matchstick men who stand ready to be popped into pigeon holes, but the column and Cindy’s analysis are well worth a look.
(For purposes of full disclosure, the Logical One is also my radio partner and tosses me a nice shout-out in the essay.) At one point, Cindy is addressing some of Stein’s favorable comments about other countries as compared to the good old U.S. of A. and expresses her pity and anger for the author.
Pity because again, he just doesn’t get it. Love is not nuanced – love is “I’ll lay down my life for you”, love is give up everything you have in order to be with that person or be in that place. True love never wonders if there is something better out there! Those of us who have been overseas, we have been to these places that you admire so much and we are able to see the good, the bad and the indifferent in them. We go to these countries and we see people – hard working people who are doing whatever it takes to take care of their families and live life to the fullest – just like we do here. Anger because he just refuses to see this country in the same idealistic light he sees other countries in.
So, do I love my country? Were anyone to have the temerity to ask me, I suppose I would bristle a bit and respond, “Of course I love my country! I’m a veteran, for God’s sakes!” (For some reason we veterans seem to get a free pass on the question from both sides of the aisle. In reality, of course, we’re not much different from everyone else.) But Lady Logician’s essay gives me pause to examine the question a bit more deeply. Is it love? Am I in love with America? There’s a part of me that is tempted to say that I wasn’t very much in love with it on March 20, 2003. That was a day when my wife went outside, took down our American flag, folded it up and put it in the closet. But had I fallen out of love with the country? No. I just wasn’t particularly wild about the Commander in Chief we had put in office at the time.
Do we love the reality of our country, or are we in love with the idea of America? It’s easy to love the concept and the dream of a democratic republic such as ours. (It’s not actually a true, pure democracy, in case you’re wondering. Look it up some time.) But the day to day affairs of such an entity can often fall short of the ideal. For that matter, if we’re to be brutally honest here, it’s not that hard to fall in love with the theoretical concept of communism, either. Who wouldn’t like a society where everyone is contributing equally and assured of protection and security? Of course, the reality of communism is that it never works, falls apart in a few generations at most, and either breaks down entirely or morphs into a brutal state of oppression where nobody in their right mind would like to live. It’s just not a perfect universe, I’m afraid.
It was Brasidas of Sparta who once claimed that it was impossible to effectively rule more people than you could fit in a single room at one time. (In all fairness, old Brasidas also seemed to feel that it was impossible to effectively rule more people than you could line up at one time, tie to stakes, chop off a few limbs and set afire, so we may want to take that with a grain of salt.) But we soldier on with our representative form of government and our Bill of Rights and do the best we can. Is it perfect? No… nothing is. Is it the best I can imagine? I would have to say so. In fact, the system itself may well be damn near perfect. It’s just the human beings required to keep the wheels turning, with all of their warts and flaws, that seem to muck up the works all the time.
So, dear readers, (at least the ones living in the United States) do you love America? Are you in love with your country? Is your love somehow better or worse than somebody else’s, be they ever so liberal or conservative? Or should all of us in the punditry class just shut the heck up and let you get about the business of enjoying America as you see fit?